Den of Stars, Christopher Byford – Book Review

Hello humans! It feels like years (and in fact, it probably has been at least one) since I reviewed Den of Shadows, the first book in Christopher Byford’s Gambler’s Den series. I thoroughly enjoyed reading book one but it took until now to get round to finishing the series! Thankfully HQ provided me with a copy of both of the last two books so I could tell you what I think! Since these are HQ digital titles they make for wonderful holiday reads, especially for those who prefer to travel by train!

Den of Stars Christopher Byford

Goodreads Summary:

Are you willing to gamble with your life?

Some debts can’t be repaid. The Gambler’s Den lies in ruins, its staff scattered across the Sand Sea, all but a memory of the minds of its past patrons. But when the Morning Star appears, ruled by a mysterious figure known only as the Hare, the comparisons can’t be helped. Who is this larger-than-life character? Why do the showgirls wear masks? What are they hiding? The answer…they should be dead. Franco and Misu were safe only in their anonymity, but with Franco gone Misu must find him – jeopardising all they have built. In order to save the man she trusts Misu must put her faith in the villain. Wilheim does not forget disobedience lightly, and Misu’s was a great betrayal, so now he will call in his debt, and his revenge on the staff of the Morning Star. Who will win? Who will survive? Who will the odds favour?

Find on Goodreads | Amazon UK (Affiliate)

More Misu!! This was literally all I wanted from the end of the previous book, Misu was pretty much my favourite character and I had become a little fed up with Franco’s self-destructive behaviour. So give me a story with Misu in the centre of the action being competent and badass and I’m pretty much guaranteed to enjoy it! Misu, fans of book one will be pleased to know, is as wonderful as ever.

I was a little concerned about the premise of this story, that it might be a simple re-hashing of book one, that is true to some extent, there are a lot of similarities between the two (book three is very different but that’s a discussion for tomorrow’s review). Upon finishing the book I realised that I enjoyed the last 20% of this book far more than the opening. This is pretty standard for me at the moment so I’m not sure if it’s the reading slump I’ve got myself into or if it’s a genuine reflection of the pacing.

I do have one explanation for my problem with the start of the book. We have Misu as our main character (yay) but she’s got a secret. I won’t reveal it here because it is a spoiler, but the fact that a lot of the book is from Misu’s perspective and in order to preserve the mystique it isn’t revealed until much later in the book means that you do not understand Misu’s motivation whatsoever. So you see her alienating herself from other members of the crew and you see her doing confusing and sometimes very sad things but you don’t work out why until much later. I don’t mind a mystery, but not knowing the motivation for the character whose perspective you are depicting just means that I as a reader didn’t connect with the story as much as I wanted to until later on.

That being said, if you persevere and let the story come to light you are left with a very fun train heist kind of story, the kind of action that I enjoyed in Den of Shadows. I enjoyed learning more about the characters, whether that was through dialogue or flashbacks and seeing the chance for characters to develop outside of Franco’s misery was definitely something I appreciated.

If you enjoyed Den of Shadows I can say that the sequel is worth reading. I will say that the opening is slow, but let it burn a little and you’ll be rewarded with a fun fast-paced story.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a digital advanced review copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? What other train or heist based books do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!

J

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